Equal

The words ‘equal’ and ‘equality’ have been exercising my mind lately. They are used extensively by the media, and various groups who want the same advantages as others. I started by looking up the dictionary definitions, and found the:

Definition of equal: being the same in quantity, size, degree, or value. Identical.

Definition of congruent: identical in form; coinciding exactly when superimposed.

Now the Lord God said, “It is not good (beneficial) for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [one who balances him—a counterpart who is] suitable and complementary for him.” Genesis 2:18 AMP

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 NIV

Unfortunately, and sadly (I think) society has decided today that men and women are equal in all aspects of life to the point that they are congruent (see the definition above). It is patently evident that God did not make man and woman the same. They are complementary one with the other. The best examples of marriage I know, occur when one makes up for the other so that there is harmony and balance in the relationship and the children benefit. In any union where each partner wants to be superior, and acts that way, disaster is not far away.

So what did Paul mean when he said there is neither male nor female, but one in Christ Jesus? Based on Scripture, it cannot mean that they are both the same in all aspects, or considered equal. There is a saying that the ground is level at the foot of the cross, meaning it doesn’t matter who you are, or the life you have led, salvation is freely offered to the sinner and that would be the same for man and woman.

The family unit is at its strongest when mum and dad take their God given roles seriously, and do not try to usurp His will to be something that is not God’s. We (society) have now welcomed and encouraged the so called ‘equality’ of two men or two women in marriage. A child can now be raised in a home which is not God ordained, but do we care? Not really because we have swallowed satan’s lie that men and women are equal in all aspects of life. After all, the law says it is ok, so it must be so, right?? The more ‘enlightened’ women now say that they are every bit as able as men, and they can do anything a man can do, because they are equal.

Why do we not have men’s versus women’s football teams? Or mixed gender relay races versus an all men’s foursome? Or why is the female fire officer not ordered first up the high extension ladder with a water hose over her shoulder? Or a man in the delivery ward having the baby while his wife watches anxiously? Can the husband naturally feed his baby? Or why does the toddler run to his or her mum when they are hurt? Or why does the teenager go to dad for those serious teenage talks, or advice about his new girlfriend? Why are the women softer hearted and gentler in spirit? What makes a man primarily want to provide and protect his wife and family? Answers are not needed to any of these questions.

I can understand and perhaps even see where the unchurched and unsaved might think that men and women are fully congruent (equal), but not when it comes from a Bible believing Christ follower.

When you are faced with the statement that men and women are completely equal, ask in what way?

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Benefits of Old Age

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4 NIV

Some of us are blessed to grow into old age with a reasonable amount of good health, while others pass away into their own eternal destiny, and sometimes we who are still here will ask, “why was I left behind”? We are all different, but each of us bears the scars of our individual history of life. Some experiences have been better than others, and some we would rather forget.

I am happy, and yes even relieved, that every child of God has the sure and certain promise of eternal life in heaven. We might not know exactly what that looks like, but we do have the cast iron assurance that we will enter heaven’s gates to live with Jesus forever and as a BIG bonus we will get to see our family who also placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

Until that great and glorious day, we live out our lives on earth as best we can. Our human body is frail and subject to all the ailments and temptations that the devil can throw at us. But, and it’s a BIG BUT, we are told what our gracious God will do for the believers as they ‘do life’ this side of heaven. He says,  “I am he who will sustain you” and I will carry you” and I will sustain you”, (this is said twice so it must be important) and “I will rescue you”.

The best part of this promise for me, is that it doesn’t just apply to the older, gray haired believers, it says even to your old age and gray hairs” and that means all the way through your life until you see those gray hairs appearing and beyond! What a promise from our gracious and understanding God.

Whispers

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28 NIV

For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 2 Corinthians 12:20 NIV

You will be aware of the term, ‘Chinese Whispers’ which is nice way of saying gossip, or tattletale. Whispers sounds better, but we do a big disservice to the Chinese to tag them in that phrase. So gossip it is and gossip it remains.

The various acts of gossip are usually attributed to the womenfolk, but I have found that men are much the same, and as bad if not worse. You see, gossip is not just a soft whisper behind someone’s back. It can be peddled as an intentional deceit to mislead the thinking of others, to help turn opinions and preferences round to their own wishes! I would go as far as to suggest that this type of deliberate, deceitful gossip is the preferred instrument of the menfolk.

Not only does gossip separate close friends but it is listed among other (we would consider) more serious sins like discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. This puts the action of the gossiper in a fresh light, doesn’t it? So we must be aware of the damage it can cause, and stay well clear. There is no such thing as it being a good thing. ‘Helpful words’ from a friend like, “I’m only telling you this for your own good”, or “I was told not to say, but…”, don’t count because it is still gossip, and we must be alert to these deceptions.

Nearly Nothing

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38,39

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

In one case, nothing can separate us from the love of God, and in the other verse, we are to be disciples of love for each other. I see a clear link between God’s love in our heart, and the fact that this love will remain constant between God and us. Of course you can be forgiven for thinking that chapter 8 of Romans finishes prematurely. Cut me a bit of slack here, and allow me to make a modern day ironic meaning to verse 39.

Nothing will “separate us from the love of God”, except that we maybe let those really big, important things like music, dress, colour, politics, beliefs, denomination, or theology. It seems we don’t go to church to worship, but choose a church that suits us. I am reminded that when Paul wrote to several of the churches of his day that they had problems, really big problems, he didn’t separate himself from them. He tried to help by preaching the truth of the gospel, but he didn’t disown them, or suggest others do the same. No, he let the love of God shine through him in the belief that it would win over anything in all creation that might be able to separate him (or us) from Christ Jesus.

Why do we let some minor differences get between us and God? We recite Romans 8:38,39 so easily as it talks about the big things, while letting some of those smaller, petty, earthly thoughts and feelings get between us and the love of God. Truth is, it’s not God who puts the barriers up to His love, it’s us! When God seems so far away, ask yourself who moved? According to this text, it certainly wasn’t God!

Trying

[ Suffering for Doing Good ] Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8

This verse finds me trying in two senses. Firstly, I am constantly trying to live out these wise and inspired words, and secondly, I sometimes find them ‘trying’ because I don’t always reach the mark and fall short. But as Paul writes in Philippians 3:14 “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” So, we should never give up trying to be more Christlike as Paul says. Peter takes the theme and says we should be more….

Like minded, suggesting that we need to treat our brothers and sisters with the same care that they treat us. With respect and due care. Our churches would always be more welcoming and friendly if we were all working to the same goal, and we did not have the hierarchy of self appointed leaders. There is no room for pride in a like minded group.

Sympathetic churches show the heart of Jesus in the community. It takes a real Christian to show true and genuine sympathy for the downtrodden, forgotten homeless people who live on the streets. It is easier to forget or ignore these people, but we are commanded to sympathise with their lives and lifestyles. They may not behave or look like the clean, respected members who fill our pews, but we cannot distance ourselves from them, or their needs.

Love one another tells me the highest calling we need to have for our fellow Christians. When we grasp the fact that God IS love, then it follows that we must show that same Christlike love to our brothers and sisters. Peter doesn’t say this because it’s easy, because as the old saying goes, “It’s hard to love the unlovely”, but we are commanded to, so we must. Not a halfhearted ‘like’, but a full blown selfless Christian agape love.

Be compassionate and show it. This is practical and unmistakable. When we are compassionate, the world can see it, and then know for certain that we mean to share the love we have for each other, with them too. The combination of love and compassion is contagious, and shows the world we are serious about their salvation too. We think their soul is worth saving for eternity.

Humble. In one small word, we encapsulate the hardest thing for us to do as Christians. Oh we say we are not proud, but we fail the test when we think, no one else can do this job like me. Or, I have been helping to run this church all my life, so I know all about the needs better than everyone else. Or again, where would they be without my tithes or offerings? The burden on my shoulders is great, but I still think I am humble. Really? Humility is elusive. When we actively believe we have achieved humility, it’s at that point we have lost it! I think Peter left this command to the last because without it, we become a sham, and the world can see through a phoney with no trouble.

Spinach

I don’t like spinach, in fact I hate it. It has no place on my plate or in my diet. It’s the feel of the stuff in my mouth as well. It might make Popeye stronger, but that’s just a cartoon. Truth is, I have never tasted spinach so my opinion holds no weight, does it? Why should I criticise something I know nothing about?

Sometimes I tune into a radio phone in show in the mornings, and today the subject was “Is religion relevant in our day and age?” Typically, there was a mix of responses ranging from people who live their faith, right through to those who would have nothing to do with any church in spite of the fact that they have never been inside one. They had taken their opinion from the media who report the wars around the world and they see the major root cause as religion. Hence the analogy to spinach at the start of this piece.

Based on second and third hand information, the callous caller had already decided that religion and faith was nothing to him, and easily discarded straight into the dustbin of life. He couldn’t see an ounce of good or credibility in any religion of any kind, not just Christianity.

Time for another truth and confession. There are some Christian beliefs held dear to others that I just can’t accept. On top of that, there are some Christians that I just can’t get close enough to like. This revelation is like the example of me not liking spinach in spite of the fact that I have never tasted it. The same becomes true of my attitude to other Christian’s beliefs and personalities. Somehow I don’t think I am alone in this confession. I’m sure there are others but we are not so good at coming clean, are we?

So, what to do? Should I try the spinach? Or is my reluctance due to God working in my life helping me to avoid false teachings, and yes even people? Until I am led by the Spirit of God I will refrain from the spinach in the meantime. After all, is it such a bad thing to avoid, and be protected from bad or suspect teachings, and teachers?

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 2 Peter 2:1,2 NIV

Blame Culture

It is impossible to miss the current fashion of having to blame someone, anyone, for just about anything! It has always been rife in all things political, but it has now encroached into the lives of ordinary people.

There are the usual suspects and culprits: Different ethnic groups blaming each other for all sorts of wrongdoing. Opposing religions pointing the finger at each other for the rising state of bigotry in the country. The police for performing too many stop and searches on the most likely to offend, just because it’s viewed as racially targeted. The NHS for not doing enough to care for a patient when thousands are saved and healed every day. The ambulance crews who don’t get there as fast as we would like, but are still within their target. The lawyers for getting the well known criminal off on a technicality. It starts early in life, in the school playground when a goal is scored against your team and you blame the referee, and so it goes on through life. As we sometimes say in jest, “A big boy did it and ran away”, except it’s not so funny now.

It seems to help when we convince ourselves that any problem we have is always someone else’s fault! The saddest part for me is that some children and teenagers will even blame their parents for the way they turned out and the bad example given as they saw it. Is it me, or does no one take responsibility now for anything they do themselves? To adopt a word from the USA, are we turning out a generation of ‘snowflakes’ who are offended at everything but responsible for nothing?

Do we have to constantly use the blame card? Is it possible that there are still people out there who will put their hand up and admit, “that was my fault, sorry” and with that small statement reduce the tension while at the same time increase their own priceless integrity in the eyes of others? Oh, and did I mention being a forgiving person is also Christ-like?

Jesus said, if you forgive…your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14 ESV

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”            Luke 23:34 ESV